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RYA Eric Twiname Junior & Youth Team Racing Championships 2023 at Oxford Sailing Club

by Bex Foot & Ed Sibson 23 Oct 2023 18:59 BST 7-8 October 2023
RYA Eric Twiname Junior & Youth Team Racing Championships at Oxford © RS Sailing

The RYA Eric Twiname Junior & Youth Team Racing Championships took place 7-8 October 2023 at Oxford Sailing Club on Farmoor Reservoir. Possibly the world's biggest event for youth team racing, this renowned regatta saw a huge 348 sailors turning up to participate. Racing started promptly on the Saturday with a good strong breeze of 15-17 knots and the race committee got in as many races as possible.

Unlike traditional fleet racing regattas, this event features kids, aged 8 to 18, sharing RS Feva and Firefly dinghies. Teams do on-water changeovers and compete in short-burst races.

"What is brilliant about the event is that it's team racing, not fleet racing. This gives the sailors a better opportunity to learn and experience the racing rules of sailing. It starts to sew the seeds of team racing skills; sailing as slow as possible rather than as fast as possible to win" Jake Elsbury, Training & Fleet Co-Ordinator at RS Sailing. "It is unique to most other sailing events as the teams experience short, sharp, intense periods on the water. Races are just 6 minutes' long but they are voracious compared to fleet racing in various ways."

The 2023 Championships is the first time the event was run on three courses. Usually, it is just split into two; Youth (Under 19s) and Junior (Under 17s) and teams race 3 v 3. However, this year the committee wanted to make it more inclusive, so the Junior category was split into two classes; the Under 17s and the Under 15s.

Classed as 'pre-Junior', the Under 15s competed in 2 v 2 races to make it more accessible for those who have never team raced before. "It's very straight forward; don't be last!" Jake explains. This decision was also taken considering the huge demand for the Junior event - there was an excess of 50 applicants this year.

The Junior categories raced in the RS Feva. "They're sporty, fast, agile and robust." Jake continues, "It is proper racing pedigree great for stop/start, tactical team racing. And it will bounce off others like bumper cars if there is a collision. They're the perfect boat for youth sailors to showcase their skills and engage in friendly competition."

The Championships are also known for their social side. When sailors are not racing, they are either on a rib together, engaging with the tactics on the water, or they are back on land. Families come with gazebos, BBQs and picnic and make a proper day of it. Between racing, sailors get to know competitors off the water too and have plenty of opportunities to make new friends.

Overall, by the end of race day 1, the top Youth team was Rutland Exiles, the only team winning 100% of their races. Close behind were the Blue and Purple teams of the Royal Hospital School with 89% wins. Roa Island, Sevenoaks White and Claires Court Green topped the Junior field with 90% wins.

Going into the second day, the stakes were high, as every point and win counted. The race management team decided to move onto Stage 2 of the competition, the teams were split into seeded leagues based on their results from day 1. It was forecast to be very light, and the water was like a mirror when we arrived. There was a postponement for about an hour while we were all waiting out in the sun for the wind to fill in.

Eventually, after a couple of hours of postponement, the wind settled in one direction, and the racing began. Due to the light winds and shifty conditions, the racing had a few small delays and didn't quite proceed as smoothly as day 1. Nearing the end of the day, the race management team decided that there wouldn't be enough time for knockouts, so the Gold League standings would decide the medallists in both Youth and Junior competitions.

This put Royal Hospital School (RHS) Purple up against their own teammates of Royal Hospital School Blue and Rutland Exiles to decide the final placings. RHS Purple put on an excellent 'final race' against RHS Blue, leading them to have a very tight performance on the last upwind leg, which allowed them to secure the win, placing them in an even better position to win the event.

Then all the pressure was on the last race against the Rutland Exiles, the winner of this one race would win the competition.

Both teams performed excellently against each other, demonstrating high levels of knowledge of team-specific racing techniques. However, the race swayed the way of RHS Purple due to their resilience, tenacity and incredible boat speed. This led to RHS Purple team winning the Youth competition. The team consists of Sarah (captain), Ciara, Toby, Sam, Merryn, and Poppy. Rutland Exiles were second and RHS Blue finished with the bronze medals.

The Junior competition also contained some incredibly tight team racing with Rutland Silver winning the Gold League from Sevenoaks White and Roa Island in third. The Pre-Junior competition was won by Royal Lymington Yacht Club from Ryde Blue and North Oppies in third.

A huge congratulations to all competitors, and a massive thank you to all who helped throughout the weekend, particularly kSail, to ensure the racing was so enjoyable!

Event Director, Jake Fennick, ran the regatta on behalf of the RYA. "It was an unforgettable championship. A monster in size, we had 348 sailors at the venue! With 73 teams across the three courses, we did almost 300 races on the Saturday. That wouldn't have been possible without the support from RS. We couldn't have got those extra flights of boats in without them."

There was a huge array of volunteers from straight-forward event support, administrators, juries, umpires and race officers. All-in-all it was a superb mix of fast and furious racing blended with some well-timed breaks for social time ashore.

Youth (Under 19s) results
Junior (Under 17s) results
Pre-Junior (Under 15s) results

The Eric Twiname Trust wants to see more people taking part in team racing and building confidence in youth sailors. As Jack put it: "This is your call to arms! If you experienced team racing, loved it and want to do more, contact the RYA for help and guidance to make it happen at your own club."

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